Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sanya Initiative: PLA Sends Team to Hawaii for Second Meeting with Retired US Flag/General Officers

As a follow-on to the previous post on Bill Owens' Financial Times editorial, the Hawaii-based Star Bulletin has reported that the second corporate-sponsored meeting of retired U.S. and Chinese flag/general officers took place on 17-18 October 2009 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Known as the Sanya Initiative, the Financial Times reported last year that the dialogue is funded by Bill Owens' parent company, AEA Investors (Vincent Mai), as well as C.V. Starr (Maurice "Hank" Greenberg), and the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation. Another report, apparently a formal report to funders, also credited the Carnegie Corporation and National Committee on U.S.-China Relations for helping to fund the event.

The eight day visit of the Chinese delegation also included stops in New York City and Washington DC for meetings with the Secretary of State and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. The delegation's visit preceded the visit of Vice Chairman, Central Military Commission GEN Xu Caihou.

Access and Influence: Financial Executive Opens Doors in Washington for the PLA

The Chinese delegation was led by Xiong Guangkai, former head of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) intelligence community. Xiong currently serves as director of an elite PLA intelligence analytical unit. The Chinese delegation also included five retired senior military officers. Leading and organizing the U.S. side was AEA Investors' Bill Owens, who served as Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff under the Clinton administration.

After meetings in Hawaii, Owens leveraged connections in the Obama administration, and escorted Xiong and the rest of the Chinese delegation for meetings in Washington D.C. with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff ADM Mike Mullins (click here for Financial Times reporting). Both ADM Mullins and former Commander, Pacific Command Tim Keating endorsed the initiative in writing (see pages 19 and 20 of the formal report).

Reflecting the views of his Chinese colleagues, Bill Owens is a critic of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Owens was quoted as saying "we look to be a model for active-duty military where the relationship is officially not very good.” Indeed, Owens and his Chinese colleagues do appear to be trying to influence DoD's views regarding the TRA and arms sales. Before departing New York City, Xiong led the entourage in singing "The More We Get Together." {NOTE: No joke here. Read the Financial Times article hyperlinked above. Inquiring minds want to know if Xiong Guangkai, perhaps reflecting on his successes, peered into Owens' eyes while singing "and your friends are my friends"}.

The Star-Bulletin reported that the China Association for International Friendly Contact "coordinated" the trip for the Chinese side. Administratively subordinate to the PRC Ministry of Civil Affairs, the China Association for International Friendly Contact [youlianhui; ε‹θ”δΌš] is also known as the International Liaison Department of the PLA General Political Department (GPD). According to Ann Marie Brady in Making the Foreign Serve China: Managing Foreigners in the People's Republic, the Association targets "friendly personages" or "foreign leftists," and reports up the chain to the PLA GPD and presumably beyond.

Members of the U.S. team for the talks in Hawaii were:

Bill Owens. AEA Investors (Asia). ADM (ret) William Owens also is former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. See previous post for more details on Owens and his company.

Ron Fogleman. CEO, Alliant Techsystems (ATK); Vice President, Projects International. Gen Ronald Fogleman also is former chief of staff of the Air Force.

Charles E. Wilhelm. Board of directors, OmniPerception; adviser, Battelle Science & Technology, International; former member of advisory board, Lucent Technologies; member of board of advisers, M.I.C.. Industries.Retired four star general and former commander of U.S. Southern Command; and mentor to Joint Forces Command. Gen (ret, USMC) Charles Wilhelm also is former Commander, Southern Command.

Denny Reimer. Director, DFI Government Services (now Detica), a subsidiary of defense contractor BAE Systems. Detica specialises in "collecting, managing and exploiting information to reveal actionable intelligence." He also serves as advisor, VirtualAgility. Gen (ret) Dennis Reimer also is former Army chief of staff.

Chinese delegation members were:

Xiong Guangkai. Xiong serves as Chairman, China Institute for International Strategic Studies (CIISS). CIISS is subordinate to the PLA General Staff Department (GSD) Second Department (intelligence). As Bates Gill and James Mulvenon noted in a 2002 China Quarterly article, CIISS is "an important interface between the military intelligence apparatus and foreign experts, with regular interactions both at home and abroad."

CIISS houses both active duty and retired military officers, including what Michael Swaine notes in the Gill/Mulvenon article as "some of the best military analysts from the intelligence department." Xiong served as head of the PLA's intelligence community before moving to direct CIISS. As a member of the Taiwan Affairs Leading Group, Xiong also has been a key player in leading the charge for Taiwan's annexation. LTG (ret) Xiong Guangkai also is former deputy chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army.

Yu Zhenwu. GEN (ret) Yu Zhenwu is former commander of the PLA Air Force. Beijing cut his visit to the United States while he was PLAAF Commander in May 1995 to protest the visit of Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui to the United States. Fogleman was his counterpart at the time.

Li Qianyuan. GEN (ret) Li Qianyuan is former commander of the Lanzhou Military Area Command. He also served as commander, 1st Group Army in the Nanjing Military Region, which is a key Taiwan-related position.

Pei Huailiang. GEN (ret) Pei Huailiang is former president of the PLA National Defense University. Pei also has been viewed as a Taiwan specialist in light of extensive experience in planning and operational positions in the Nanjing Military Region, as well as Jinan Military Region.

Zhao Guojun. VADM (ret) Zhao Guojun is former commander of the East Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy.

Retired PLA generals who participated in the initial meeting in Sanya, Hainan Island, but not the more recent one include GEN (ret) Zhu Wenquan, former Commander, Nanjing Military Region; and GEN (ret) Yang Deqing, former Political Commissar, Guangzhou Military Region.

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